“Day of the Dead in Oaxaca: Union of Ancestral Cultures and Catholic Beliefs”


“Discover the history of the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, fusing pre-Hispanic traditions and Catholic influence. A unique festival!”

Day of the Dead altars in Oaxaca, known as “ofrendas,” are full of symbolism.

The Day of the Dead in Oaxaca is a celebration that dates back to the ancient pre-Hispanic civilizations of Mexico. The Zapotecs and Mixtecs, original inhabitants of this region, had beliefs about life after death. For them, death was not the end, but a transition to another stage of existence. On this holiday, it was believed that the souls of the deceased returned to visit their loved ones.

The Day of the Dead altars in Oaxaca, known as “ofrendas,” are full of symbolism. Cempasuchil flowers, candles, food, drinks and personal items of the deceased are placed. These elements are arranged in layers, and each one has a special meaning. The offerings reflect the close relationship that exists between the living and the dead, as well as the importance of keeping alive the memory of those who are gone.

The Fusion with Catholic Influence

The arrival of the Spanish and the evangelization of America did not eliminate the old beliefs, but rather intertwined them with the Catholic faith. The Catholic Church sought to incorporate native festivities into its liturgical calendar to facilitate the conversion of indigenous people. As a result, the Day of the Dead was moved to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

This fusion led to the incorporation of religious elements in the offerings, such as crosses and images of saints. Although rituals became more Catholic, the indigenous roots remained strong. The holiday remains an expression of love and respect for deceased loved ones, a reminder of the importance of keeping traditions and cultural roots alive.

Source: El Imparcial